New Board Looks to Future of District

Recent electees bring new perspectives to district leadership.

Art by AJ Boulund

Art by AJ Boulund

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The election of four new full term school board members has prompted conversation regarding the future of the ICCSD, in which debated issues such as the redrawing of boundary lines and the construction of new buildings are key.  

Across the board, new electees are hoping to better engage the community. Phil Hemingway, who owns and operates a mechanic shop, is assured that his financial experience will help to guide the board’s budget decisions.  He advocates for greater collaboration with Kirkwood’s technical programs.

“I think that there is a lot of work to be done to get that coordination, and I think that we have to start to look at technical courses much earlier [than we are now],” Hemingway said.

He also stressed the importance of a partnership with the community in order to discuss facility needs.

“K-12 and our region universities are both facing the same money crunch from the state legislature,” he said.  “We need to work together and we need to pool our talents.”

Retired high school teacher and elected board member Tom Yates shares the same views as Hemingway regarding the importance of a closely knit relationship between the school district and community.

We need to work together and we need to pool our talents.”

— Phil Hemingway

“We’re going to have honest dialogue, we’re going to have to include the community and find ways to have real honest dialogue and real conversations with people in the district who can give us a better sense of how we should proceed,” Yates said.

Latasha DeLoach works as a social worker for Johnson County Community Social services and serves on several school district committees involving equity in discipline and in policy making. Because of her first hand experiences with students and the adversity that they face, DeLoach hopes to bring their perspective into the equation as the board considers making policy changes.

“I want to help bring the voices of students to the table more,” DeLoach said.  “Sometimes we spend so much time looking about this building and that building, that we’re not looking at how well all of our students are doing, not just the ones that are getting high scores on their ACTs.”

When addressing the future of education, Hemingway expressed a sense of urgency; he aims to create a learning setting that is fit for every student.

“The biggest issue is making sure that we provide a learning environment for all of our students, not just a select few, and to provide them with curriculum and opportunities that prepare them for the 21st century,” he said.

[All of the school board’s issues] are interconnected because when we have equity, we address our achievement gap.”

— LaTasha DeLoach

LaTasha DeLoach, who received the most votes in the election at 17.5%, expressed similar views on equality in education.  

“[All of the school board’s issues] are interconnected because when we have equity,  we address our achievement gap,” she said.  “If we address our achievement gap, our reading and math scores are also addressed.”

Although the new board members agree that there should be a stronger connection between the school board and the community, their stances on redistricting differs.

“If redrawing boundaries is necessary then that’s what you have to do,” Yates said.  “I think that people should get used to the idea that the boundaries are going to be looked at more frequently, and that will be a good thing.”

While Yates is willing to change boundaries if required, Hemingway aims to redistrict resources rather than redistrict students.

I think that people should get used to the idea that the boundaries are going to be looked at more frequently, and that will be a good thing.”

— Tom Yates

“My belief is that the school that students should go to should be the one closest to their home,” Hemingway said.  

Components of redistricting such as bussing and new facilities play a role in the district’s budget decisions.  The board members are looking to use the district’s yearly budget to its full extent; Hemingway stresses the need to account for every student.

“We need to make sure that we’re spending [the money] properly, that we’re not paying for duplications of services, that we’re not paying for other people’s mistakes, and that every dollar is maximized so that every student gets the maximum benefit from it,” Hemingway said.  

DeLoach plans to use her own experience as well as community input and professional consultants to make budget decisions.

“I would make sure that I gather information from the community as well as from experts in the field,” DeLoach said.

While the newly elected school board members’ opinions from topic to topic vary, they share the common ideal of bettering education for all students in the ICCSD.

“Sometimes we get so far away from that we get caught up in the little things and they can distract us from what our main purpose is,” DeLoach said. “Our goal is to educate students and send them out from our district as phenomenal citizens of the world.”